Scott McNealy of Sun (SUNW) Microsystems uttered the signature soundbyte on privacy in the information age: "You already have zero privacy. Get over it." The media are waking up to this reality, big time. When a computer security researcher revealed that RealNetworks (RNWK)' popular media player, RealJukebox, was sending your personal data to the company every time you popped in a CD, it made front-page news. RealJukebox has 13.5 million registered users.
Seattle-based RealNetworks' hometown papers were not out front on this story. Grok could find no coverage in the Seattle Times (dossier), and today's Post-Intelligencer unaccountably ran an older version of AP copy, filed when Real's privacy breach was first discovered. The AP story carried by USA Today and others was fronted by an eight-paragraph update on RealNetworks' response to the firestorm.
Yesterday Real announced a software patch to fix the problem. Most of today's stories - by CNET (CNET), AP and Wired - said Real's patch would stop RealJukebox from sending any data back to the company. Only the Times' Robinson reported that the patch would simply issue each user a new ID number so that the data that is sent couldn't be matched up with a user's identity.
The Wall Street Journal's coverage noted that Real is not alone in gathering data from music fans. MusicMatch, which recently announced a marketing deal with Microsoft (MSFT), also collects usage information. Unlike Real, though, MusicMatch informs the user during the installation process and offers a chance to opt out. - K.D.
RealNetworks: Privacy Invasion Wasn't Clear Enough
The Industry Standard
CD Software Is Said to Monitor Users' Listening Habits
New York TImes
RealNetworks to Stop Collecting User Data
New York Times
Music Tastes of Customers Being Relayed by Software (AP)
RealNetworks Is Watching You (AP)
RealNetworks Probe Begins
Real Snooping by RealNetworks (Reuters)
RealNetworks to Issue Software Patch to Block Program's Spying on Users
Wall Street Journal
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RealNetworks Puts a Patch on Privacy Concerns
San Jose Mercury News